Bad College Advice, Volume I

by Judge Josh on December 13, 2010

Man, Rebecca’s been getting some terrible college advice. I want to thank her in advance for allowing me to smash some of it here in a public forum.

My question has two parts. I will be graduating with my A.A.S in Accounting this December with a 3.6GPA after taking classes for four years.

Congrats!

It has taken me over the standard two years because of two reasons: I did not receive aid for the first half of my classes so I had to take them one or two at a time, and also because I switched from Business Administration to Accounting after taking my first Accounting course. I have been told that this would look bad on my resume because it would look like I worked slowly and wasn’t dedicated to my classes.

bad college advice

There's no way this guy could give advice that's any worse.


Whoever told you this has absolutely no idea what they’re talking about, so a) don’t worry about it, and b) stop speaking that person about anything related to your education and career.

It’s community college. One of its core purposes is to educate working people who are, you know, working a lot and cannot go to school full-time. By the logic of your advisor/friend/whoever, the entire endeavor of part-time education would be deemed laziness.

One of the reasons I attended community college was because I have worked full time the entire time I attended (even when I was taking classes full time).


Eggggggxactly.

I believe that it shows I was dedicated to getting my degree and that I am able to handle multiple tasks efficiently, maintaining good performance at work and in school.

Yeah, I totally agree. And so will the people who look at your resume.

Did I hurt myself by taking so long to complete my degree?

No. Please, brush that criticism aside completely. It has no merit at all. None.

The second part of my question is that I only need one class to get my A.A.S in Business Administration because of the courses I completed before changing my degree and the rest of the courses overlapping. This one class is an intro class which will cost me under $500 including book and not take up more than 8 hours of my time a week including homework.

Do it!

It is not easy to come up with that amount of money, but I know that the degree would more than pay off that cost.

I think it would, too. It’s only $500, so it’s a low bar to clear in that respect. Honestly, even if it wouldn’t pay off in your career, I think the second degree would be worth it for vanity’s sake. You know, the cachet of people discussing you as someone with a degree in accounting AND business? Totally worth $500 to me.

I feel like it would be worth it to me to have this second degree since it compliments the first, I would even complete the degree if it was only an extra semester of work. I have been told that employers may see this as excessive or indecisive.

Good Lord, Rebecca, who is advising you? I really, really hope it’s not someone employed by any institution of learning. But I have to guess that it’s the same person that gave you that other terrible advice.

This advice is even worse. If this advice were a photo of an old boyfriend, Rebecca, I’d ask you to squirt it with lighter fluid, spark the flame and watch it burn to ashes until the fire puts itself out, just so you can absorb the finality of such bad advice leaving the Earth, and, by extension, your life.

Is obtaining multiple degrees in related fields excessive?

No, and especially not when they’re associate’s degrees. It’s not like you spent 12 years of your life getting Ph.Ds in each.

And especially when you didn’t actually pursue two completely different paths of study to get them — they just happened to overlap. Again, by your advisor’s logic, any dual-degree program would be excessive, when in fact, they usually mean you’re a highly motivated student.

All of this advice seems unrealistic, but I want to make sure I am not just sugar coating my choices and options.

Nope, no sugar.

What is your opinion? (I also have a certificate in Marketing Management. I do plan on transferring to get my bachelors eventually, then moving on to my Masters and CPA certifications. In the longer run I see having a Masters of Accountancy with the AAS in Business Administration and certificate of Marketing Management).

I think that’s a fine plan. I think a bachelor’s in business is an excellent all-purpose degree, and a bachelor’s and/or master’s in accounting and a CPA certification will be tickets to lifelong employment. As long as we have a government who loves taxing the rest of us and as long as we have the rest of us looking for every possible way to avoid paying that government any more taxes than absolutely necessary, there will always be work for accountants.

Now, just to add a small dose of expectations-management here, I wouldn’t rely on the certificate in marketing management to mean a lot to future employers. Marketing and advertising is my chosen profession, actually, and so I can tell you that marketing is one of those professions where success doesn’t actually require ANY formal education on the subject whatsoever.

Not that degrees in marketing are bad; they’re not. They’re just not required, by any stretch of the imagination, for success in the field. And so, if you have a certificate, then that’s probably gotten you at least an education in the basics of marketing, and that’s a good thing for you.

However, those things are also fairly easy to learn on the fly and on the job — so having that certificate won’t be something that distinguishes you significantly from your peers.

But that’s the only thing bad I have to say about the entire situation you present (and it’s not even “bad” anyway). Overall, it sounds like you’re doing fine — even with two related degrees and a full-time job. :) Good luck! Please come back often and let us know how it goes!

— Anyone have similar tales of bad college advice? If so, let’s blast them apart together. Let us know in the comments below!

{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

DK December 13, 2010 at 4:49 pm

Rebecca,
I just received my BA in Accounting on December 9th and I started out at a community college. The last two years were hell and I thank God it’s over but I can tell you this…four year universities don’t accept AS degrees. Take the classes you need to fulfill their expectations and then transfer. Depending on the state you have much to do after your BA to get licensed.
Good luck!

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NA December 14, 2010 at 1:15 am

That assertion is not true in all cases. In my state, the public colleges have an agreement where most, if not, all credits transfer between public colleges, so an associate’s degree would transfer and be accepted. I am not certain, but I think other states have similar programs. In some cases, there may be an agreement between two colleges where an associate’s degree holder from one college can easily transfer into the other college’s bachelor’s program.

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Julie December 14, 2010 at 7:32 am

It depends on the two-year institute, and that should be looked into! Some of these for-profit institutes (the online schools and what now you see on TV) usually don’t transfer. But, you may be able to talk to advisors IN THE PROGRAM of choice (the general advisors for freshman do not always have the knowledge of each indivdual program, going straight to the source is best). With work experience and classes under your belt, they may be willing to work something out with you!

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Rebecca December 14, 2010 at 7:24 pm

My associates transfer directly in to any state run four year school, my college has an agreement with them.

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DK December 14, 2010 at 7:49 pm

I’m not sure what these people are talking about but you should check with the university you want to apply to. My university does not accept AS degrees for accounting majors but is is one of the top scoring CPA schools in the nation…that might have something to do with it.

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Leeja December 14, 2010 at 11:03 pm

It depends on the state and what schools you’re transferring between. When I went to my local community college for a while, I was told that the only way that all of my classes would transfer is if I went on to one particular school, which happened to be right next door. If I went to the closest state university, I would loose about half of them.
If you’re military or the spouse of someone who is, some states have passed a law requiring all colleges and universities in that state to accept all coursework from any school and give credit for the most closely related field of study.

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Kate December 15, 2010 at 12:04 am

Interestingly enough, my university has automatic acceptance for associate degrees from colleges. It shows you have already put in the work to get through two year of a program. Most drop-outs happen, it seems to me, after first year when the crunch of second year hits and they realize its not all fun and games. If you have your associates degree you are over that hump.

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DK December 13, 2010 at 4:58 pm

And yes, Judge Josh, marketing is results driven. UGHH

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Tina S December 13, 2010 at 6:25 pm

I think it’s a good thing that you did that. I go to a business college and only take 1 class at a time. I mean it does go slower, but it’s worth it in the end.

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Ed B December 13, 2010 at 7:40 pm

I once had a counselor stick me in a General Chemisty class my first semester in Junior College. It was way over my head, I failed the first 3 tests badly. So I dropped the class. Two years later, my roommate was signed up for the SAME class by the SAME counselor. I was getting ready to take Organic Chemistry (much, much easier). Once I found out my roommate’s situation, I quickly warned him and switched his class over. He was so relieved and thankful that I had averted an eminent crisis from occuring.

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srsly? December 14, 2010 at 1:55 pm

I’ve heard from practically everyone at university that Orgo is one of the most difficult chem classes. Ever.

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Sara December 14, 2010 at 7:45 pm

srsly?,

It just depends on your method of study; general chemistry is more conceptual and organic chemistry is a bunch of memorization. They’re both fun, but different levels of difficulty depending on the individual. I can’t wait for biochemistry!! : )

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SRB January 5, 2011 at 12:10 am

At my college, there is a 2000-level ochem for those going pre-med or into the sciences (which was indeed VERY difficult), while there is a 1000-level class for those who are going into nursing or Occupational Therapy. Maybe that explains the difference here?

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Sara December 14, 2010 at 7:44 pm

Ed B,

If you had to take organic chemistry for your major, I’m guessing that general chemistry was required. Just because you were supposed to take the class does not mean it was bad advice. If you weren’t required to take general chemistry though, why did you take organic chemistry later?? This doesn’t make sense.

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NA December 14, 2010 at 1:25 am

When I first came to my current college, I did not know the program of study for my major. I looked at a page showing the courses of study for each degree. Because of what I read, I ended up taking an accounting class and a physical science class. One day, I happened to look at the school catalog, and I see a different program of study. I asked my advisor about which program is correct. She tells me that the catalog was correct. I was not required to take accounting, and I was required to take chemistry. I think not only that program of study but all of them listed on the web site were outdated. I looked at the catalogs of a couple of years proceeding that year, and the same program of study was listed for those years, so I am not certain how old those requirements were.

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Rebecca December 14, 2010 at 7:25 pm

Thanks so much for letting me know that I was right to not take their advice at face value!

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Bridget December 15, 2010 at 2:58 pm

Rebecca,
I am finishing up my bachelors in Accounting this year. I took my first two years of classes at a community college. Just be careful that some of your business and upper level accounting courses may not transfer in because some universities want you to take those classes with them. Just shop around and see which ones will take what. Even if all of your courses do not transfer in, they still may be used to meet the credits required for the CPA exam. I live in NC and you have to have a bachelors in Accounting and need a total of 150 credit hours to sit for the exam. My bachelors will include 120 credits so the other 30 credits can be taken through a community college as long as they meet your state’s requirements for subject material. I took so many classes at community colleges over the years that now I am able to use those old classes and not pay for a fifth year of school. You do not need a masters in accountancy to sit for the CPA exam….just those extra 30 credit hours unless your state doesn’t even require that. From everything that I have read and heard from employers and business graduates is that your bachelors in accounting will look much better than a bachelors in business administration. So don’t worry about the dual degree. Once you have your CPA license it will carry so much more weight than a bachelors in business administaration.

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Jennifer December 16, 2010 at 11:05 am

I have found in my experience that most college advisors suck. Sorry, but they do. I don’t know about anyone else’s experiences, but at my school, no matter what department you go to, you get passed around from one unhelpful person to the next and everyone gives you a different story. In this past week alone, I’ve spoken to two different advisors, each giving me a totally different set of requirements I still needed to meet for graduation. They’ve already held up my graduation by one semester by giving my bad advice when starting out (didn’t advise me to take certain classes that I needed to take). So their solution to my graduation dilemma? Since they can’t get their act together, they said to just submit the money to apply for graduation and wait to get a letter in the mail saying I was approved or denied and what courses I still had to take. Yeah, great advice…..waste money since we can’t do our jobs properly.

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Bridget December 17, 2010 at 12:20 pm

Jennifer,
I thought it was just the schools I’ve had to deal with. Guess the incompetence is everywhere. Everyone I’ve dealt with at my college seems to screw up everything they touch.

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Anna January 8, 2011 at 10:43 pm

Same here. And I go to a very well known school (Berkeley), too! Shame on post-secondary schools for allowing such a disorganized system to develop. Whatever happened to serving the students and making sure their educational needs were met? If you are going to hire incompetent college advisors, please just do us students a favor and don’t hire them at all.

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Chloe December 20, 2010 at 12:28 am

I was told to go to an expensive private, religiously affiliated university for the full whole years. I bring up the idea of going to a community college for the basics before transferring for my final two years to a university to nursing school to which my high school counselor said “No, you are too smart for that!” Now I may end up graduating with $35k in debt. Gee, thanks, but that didn’t seem like a smart decision.

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Deborah July 18, 2011 at 5:19 pm

I have heard similar horror stories from my daughter’s recently graduated friends from high school. All were given terrible advice from their high school guidance counselors and college enrollment advisors. I work in higher education as a faculty member and had to set them straight. I felt for my daughter’s friends who recieved such poor advice they were convinced they had to have jobs to even fill out the FAFSA, to skipping filling out the FAFSA because a counselor told them their parents made too much money. Not sure how the high school guidance counselor received their parents’ 1040’s to give out this advice.

I had to ask them how they were going to pay for college. This resultedin bewildered stares and looks that should have included question marks in cartoon bubbles over their heads.

I won’t even get started on the information they received about courses and degree program to pursue. As a quick notation, if your advisor does not include language regarding a four year degree, medical school, years of residency, and about $200,000 in student loans involved to become a doctor, then get up and run out of their office. My daughter’s poor friend thought she could go to community college for two years and then switch to a four year college for the remaining two years to become a medical doctor without the assitance of any type of funding med school or residency. All because of terrible advice from her high school counselor.

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Zach August 30, 2011 at 10:52 pm

Hi everyone – would love to hear some advice. Josh hasn’t gotten me an answer for a long time despite his promise to answer within a couple of days if we publicize this site via social media sites. I guess he’s busy.

I’ll keep it as short as I can. Thanks for your advice in advance…

I will be a senior this fall at Alfred University, on track to graduate with a BS in Marketing. Unfortunately, after classes and a couple of internships, I realize that I detest the concept and practice of marketing. My passions, I believe, lie in writing and thinking about “softer” fields including sociology/psychology, theology, and ethics.* I have 35k in debt so far.

But at this point, I wonder if I should just make the smartest decision financially and pursue a field that I won’t kill myself doing like marketing/selling.

Should I switch majors to Accounting, costing me another 10k in debt and year of school plus whatever else for a CPA? Or–my brother is a mechanical engineer at Cornell, I come from a long line of engineers, and I’m pretty bright–should I go for a second bachelor’s in engineering after graduating with my Marketing degree? That option might run me another 40k in debt and 4 years’ time, but pay out better than accounting in the long run.

Other options I’ve played out in my head include joining the peace corps to forgive some loans, starting my own PR business after graduating, studying for a Master’s in philosophy in the UK on a full-ride (fingers crossed for that scholarship)…feeling overwhelmed. What’s the smartest call here, you think?

*One last note on “following your passion,” which I hope you’ll include as I think applies broadly to a lot of the questions you receive on here. While it’s true that an English major can–to the relief of many English majors–be employable after all (in advertising, technical writing, etc.), I don’t believe that any fiction writer is thinking “press release” when asked about her true passion.

I just question the logic in many of the comments saying “less money is worth following your dreams”…I mean, yeah, hypothetically, I’d consider writing essays on my theological musings for a 30k salary the rest of my life instead of doing some ******** for 60k. An exciting/interesting gig is probably worth that 30k difference per year in overall happiness points…

…but I doubt I can get paid anything to be an essayist. More likely, well-meaning students write essays for 4 years in college (“following their passion”), then for the next 40 years write sparingly trying to impress consumers, publications, etc. or write soulless freelance how-to articles, kissing ass, teaching, and/or some other b.s. for that lower salary that they had assumed would be worth the tradeoff in extra fulfillment of “following their bliss.” Point is, when you realistically appraise what you can get paid to do, I’m wondering if anybody besides rock stars actually get paid to do what they love…I don’t know if writing for the sake of writing is worth the 30k difference I could be making as an engineer/accountant.

That is a bare-bones assumption that all your theater/art/English Lit/philosophy/anthropology student advisees should think about quantitatively: What’s the value on the fulfillment I’ll get from a career loosely related to my passion (like writing advertisements), as opposed to a better-paying gig that is unrelated to my passion (like accounting)? Will your job’s loose connection to your true passion for 40 hours per week REALLY offer you more happiness overall than an extra 30k in salary in an unrelated field?

After all, happiness is the end-game here.

Is a job just a job, and might we all be better off doing something tolerable and challenging for the most money per hour possible?

Thanks for your thoughts on my situation! Your site is a godsend for indecisive students like me and many others.

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